Archive for Erin Flanagan

To-read pile

Everyone I know has a to-read pile either on their nightstands, in their kindles, in their planners, or in their heads. And many, like me, have all the above. Here’s what’s up next until something else distracts me, or as my friend Sharon likes to say, “Squirrel!”

Get in Trouble, Kelly Link
Ghosting, Kirby Gann
There’s Something I Want You to Do, Charles Baxter
Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel, Hallie Ephron
Faith, Jennifer Haigh
This is a Story of a Happy Marriage, Ann Patchett
Thunderstruck & Other Stories, Elizabeth McCracken
Loitering, Charles D’Ambrosio
Burying Water, K.A. Tucker
Lexicon, Max Barry
I Can’t Complain, Elinor Lippmann
All the Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr
Landline, Rainbow Rowell

What about you? What’s next on your reading list, or what’s something you’ve read and loved that I should add to mine?

Local events

I had a great time at the Antioch Writers’ Workshop spring one-day seminar yesterday! The keynote speaker was Dara Marks, author of Inside Story: The Power of the Tranformational Arc, which I’m very much looking forward to reading. Other presenters were Brad Riddell and Michael London, and I’m only sorry we were presenting at the same time so I wasn’t able to attend their talks.

I did my best to live tweet just a few of the highlights from Dara’s talk, a challenge for someone my age with thumbs the size of bananas. You can follow me at @erinlflanagan if you’d like to see some of the highlights.

Tonight I’m going to be at Thurber House from 6:00-8:00 for another talk on short stories and how to make it as easy on yourself as possible to write them.

What a great time to be a writer and reader in Ohio with so many great events and like-minded folks with which to geek out!

End of the semester

Tomorrow is the last day of classes. Am I happy about this? I suppose. I’ve been chasing that six-weeks-in-my-pajamas carrot for the last month or so, but it’s always a little bittersweet to see some of my students graduate. I hope I’ve taught them well. I hope I’ve taught them what they need to know. “Comma inside the quote” is not something I say because I think the world will crumble if they don’t know how to format dialogue, but because it’s important as English majors that they know how to operate within a set of guidelines, that they respect those guidelines, and that they prove they can communicate to an audience effectively and efficiently with respect for the medium. I have a colleague who says, “All we get are twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation.” Another says, “We’re not curing cancer here, but what we do, we do well and it matters.” I say, “I will lose my shit if you don’t know by the end of the Capstone whether you italicize or use quotes for a book title.”

Graduation is a scary time for many liberal arts majors. English majors don’t have a set path like students in Social Work who will go on to be social workers, but as Cathy Day so eloquently says here, “You don’t go to college to train for your first job, but for a lifetime of jobs.” I want to tell students (and do) that I’m fairly certain they’ll have some less-than-ideal jobs in the beginning, but my guess is in five to ten years, they’re going to be happy in their careers. Maybe that doesn’t seem like good news to someone who’s only been alive twenty years, but that’s how I mean it. I’m hopeful too that their liberal arts educations will also have prepared them for a lifetime of happiness outside of their careers by focusing on what matters to them: art, books, writing, history, and so on. And for the love of Christ, book titles are italicized.

Here is the cake I ordered for the Undergraduate Creative Writing Awards in Fiction and Poetry and the event to celebrate making it out of another semester alive:


Upcoming Thurber House class

I’m teaching a class at Thurber House in Columbus next Monday, April 27, from 6:00-8:00p. The slogan of Thurber House is “Where laughter, learning, and literature meet.” Dude, those are three of my favorite things!

The topic of the class is “Building a Story from the Ground Up,” and here’s the description: You have great characters and a great idea, but how do you set them both in motion and keep the momentum going in a short story? You’ll learn about strategies to avoid common pitfalls in a story’s beginning, middle, and the ever-crucial end.

If interested, there are still a few spots open and you can register here. If this isn’t your bag or you’re not free at this time, be sure to check out the other great workshops they have going on, along with other literary events. 

Can’t wait!

Happy Valley

Back in September, my husband and I got into the  habit of watching the iPad in bed right before I fell asleep. I know it’s supposed to be terrible to watch a screen right before sleep, but since it’s a struggle to keep me up past 9:30, I wasn’t going to worry about it (getting back to sleep when I wake up at 2:00 is another issue altogether).

We went from Barry holding an iPad, to propping it on a pillow, to upgrading to a small laptop propped on the pillow for a bigger screen. Eventually we moved to a huge, old laptop we had in the computer graveyard (ie, basement), but we found out that was too slow, so now we set the most functional medium-sized laptop on top of a pillow that’s topped by the huge laptop. I have a feeling this is what the Woz’s bedroom looks like. Needless to say, it’s been a productive eight months.

One of the best shows we’ve watched so far is Happy Valley. (Other ones we’ve loved include The Fall and Broadchurch. My husband is an Anglophile, a word I had to look up to spell.) From the first episode you know exactly what the situation is; there are no crazy twists or turns like there are in The Killing, another great show, but one that gave me whiplash.


In Happy Valley, this guy does a really bad, dumb thing and this cop is trying to figure out who did the bad thing and is driven by some other things from her past. That’s it. From the get go, all cards on the table, but what makes this so great is that it’s the people themselves that keep the drama going and going and going. The guy who made a bad decision? Yep, he makes another one based on who he is. The cop driven by things in her past? Yep, those things continue to drive her. Without tricks or slights of hands, this show taps the vein of each character and rides the wave, and as a result, it’s fast-paced, exciting, and yes, surprising. Characters act in ways you might not be expecting, but given who they are, that action is always fitting.


Two great readings in Dayton

Two great readings to let you guys know about!

Poet Shane McCrae is reading at Wright State (Stein Galleries, CAC building) at 6:00 on Wednesday, April 15.

Ryan Ireland, former Wright State student, is reading at Books & Co at 7:00 on Thursday, April 16.

These should both be awesome, and I hope to see lots out for the events!

What I’m reading: Robert McCammon’s Boy’s Life

“These memories of who I was and where I lived are important to me. They make up a large part of who I’m going to be when my journey winds down. I need the memory of magic if I am ever going to conjure magic again. I need to know and remember, and I want to tell you.”


Story for all

Another shout-out for the Antioch Writers’ Workshop one-day Spring Seminar! If you have writer friends who might be interested, I would so appreciate if you’d spread the word!

Review: Almost Famous Women

I have a new review up at Heavy Feather Review of Almost Famous Women by Megan Mayhew Bergman.


No lie: I really loved this book. I thought it was so well written and researched, and just a treat line by line. I can’t wait to check out Mayhew Bergman’s first book, Birds of A Lesser Paradise. I remember hearing this title but never picked it up. I will rectify that soon.

Oh! And I saw on Twitter that one of my favorite stories from this collection, “The Seige at Whale Cay,” was selected by T.C. Boyle for Best American Short Stories 2015!

Books on tape

A few months ago I started downloading books from the library to listen to in the car. No matter that all of this is happening in some magical way I don’t understand, the books going from a repository of sound god-knows-where to my phone, I still call them books on tape, and talking about books on tape in class the other night, I thought, how much longer before students have no idea what I’m talking about?

Listening in the car started after I listened to Serial and realized my commute was something I really looked forward to rather than a twenty-minute list-making session about all I had to do. Since I finished that podcast, I’ve listened to a number of books, all of which have been collections of essays. I’ve listened to novels and stories in the past, but somehow, essays seem more suited to the job right now. So far this year I’ve listened to Lena Dunham’s Not that Kind of Girl, Amy Poehler’s Yes Please, David Sedaris’s When You Are Engulfed by Flames, Nora Ephron’s I Feel Bad About My Neck, Nora Ephron’s Wallflower at the Orgy, and Anna Quindlen’s Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake. Clearly funny, feminist-friendly books are my bag in the car.

While I love listening to these books, and they’ve helped up my numbers for the year (19 books read) I really do miss being able to highlight or mark passages I like. This was especially true in the Anna Quindlen book when so much resonated about female friendships and how we look at generational divides. In a way, I think this makes me pay more attention in the moment, knowing it’s not something I can easily come back to so I have to be sure to take it in while I can.

What about you? What kind of books do you listen to, if you do? And if not, why not?